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Wicked Beyond Belief: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper [Paperback]

Michael Bilton
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 April 2012

Revelatory investigation into the police handling of the Yorkshire Ripper Case which spanned over 14 years. Newly updated to include Sutcliffe’s bid for freedom in 2008, and the verdict from court in 2010.

For over twenty years, the dark secrets of the biggest criminal manhunt in British history have remained a closed book. Detectives refused all requests to tell the inside story of the Yorkshire Ripper investigation that logged over two million manhours of police work. The victims who survived maintained a wall of silence. And the detailed forensic evidence, witness statements and autopsy reports have remained locked away – until ‘Wicked Beyond Belief’ was published.

Award-winning writer Michael Bilton persuaded the key people to talk. After years of exhaustive research he has revealed the extraordinary truth behind the murder enquiry that left Peter Sutcliffe free to kill again and again.

With exclusive access to the detectives involved, to pathologist's archives and confidential police reports, the story of the hunt reads as tensely as any thriller. In this updated edition, he charts the blunders and changes in the law that enabled Sutcliffe to demand a minimum term with the possibility of parole in 2010. He also explores what has happened to the Ripper’s surviving victims, and their families, in recent years.

‘Wicked Beyond Belief’ is a shocking and important indictment of the most notorious murder hunt of the twentieth century.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 382 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (26 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007450737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007450732
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 86,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘A masterpiece that reads like a thriller.’ Time Out

‘There is unlikely to be a more cmprehensive or carefully researched account of the case. To read ‘Wicked Beyond Belief’ is to have a sense of being physically present at the day-to-day investigation, experiencing the frustrations, the stress and the public outrage at its lack of success as the years passed and murder followed.’ P.D.James, Mail on Sunday

‘Bilton knows more about the Ripper case than anyone living.’ Blake Morrison, Guardian

About the Author

Michael Bilton is a former Sunday Times investigative journalist and an award-winning documentary film maker. He won an Emmy for his documentary on the My Lai massacre and got rave reviews for his book ‘Four Hours in My Lai’ which was published 8 years ago and which has sold over 350,000 copies so far.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly wicked beyond belief... 2 Oct 2003
By Natalie
This book had me on the edge of my seat and I simply could not put it down! With every single page read, you can feel the tension mounting as police seemed so close and yet so far to catching this maniacal, hammer wielding, serial killer. The book is easy to read and provides an objective, non-biased account of The Yorkshire Ripper case. The author details the facts of the investigation well, including drawing attention to the missed opportunities on the part of the police, but in a non-accusatory way. The author has clearly sought to find his readers answers to the apparent lack of 'police integrity' at the time and his research on the matter enables the reader to sympathize with the CID and understand how primitive their resources still were, even in the 1970s/80s. A well-researched, objective true crime piece, which I'd highly recommend.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent study of this case 20 Oct 2004
Michael Bilton has, in my view, produced the best book yet on the Yorkshire Ripper. Bilton takes you through the entire case and each murder individually, highlighting the evidence and events without sensationalising them at all. He does not just accept the recorded version of events but examines thoroughly any errors or discrepancies he sees before coming to a conclusion about the reality of events. For example, he looks into the possibility that one of the Ripper's victims in Manchester may in fact not have been killed by him at all, and comes up with some pretty convincing arguments. He backs all of this up with detail of Yorkshire life and policing, and portraits of the officers involved in the case to provide a thorough study of how events unfolded.
The book could have been improved by some interview with the Ripper himself. I can understand why Bilton did not want to do this, but I cannot concur that the Ripper could not tell him anything about the crime of use. It is essential that we try to understand these people and their motivations. Unfortunatly this means given them the attention some of them crave, but it is a worthwhile sacrifice if it assists our understanding of such evil people.
Bilton focuses also on the victims and their lives, rather than glossing over them and focusing on the criminal alone as many books of this genre too. He provides a good insight into how the lives of the families and the police officers involved were affected. Whilst undoubtedly the police made mistakes, they are too often turned into the enemy, with little understanding as to the pressure they were under. Bilton looks closely at methods of investigation at the time and the problems this caused in such a massive investigation.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Stuff 20 Sep 2004
This is an excellent book. It tells the story of the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, aka Peter Sutcliffe, in a gripping, objective and very real way.
With hindsight the ripper should have been caught several years before he was, and the book highlights in great detail the flaws in the investigation, the various blind alleys that were followed to no avail and most of all how back in the 1970's the lack of the scientific and technologocial processes (DNA and Computers) we take for granted, made this extraordianry manhunt such an onerous endeavour. That being said, some of the decisions made by detectives and the powers that be were woeful and the fact that peter Sutcliffe was actually interviewed 9 times! over the course of his 6 year reign of terror, but nothing was done, beggars belief and highlights the communication flaws and general narrow mindedness/clutching at straws mentality that plagued the investigation.
Although I knew what the outcome was, the book raced through at an exciting pace and left me feeling excited, frightened, appalled, angry and stupified simultaneously.
Not for the faint hearted, but a terrific read all the same.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars for the most part, a non-fiction thriller 29 Aug 2003
By A Customer
This book is a gripping documentary account of the search for the yorkshire ripper. at the time of sutcliffes crimes i lived within a mile of several of the murder scenes and found it fascinating to learn an 'official' version of what was happening. for anyone who remembers the grip the case had on firstly the people of yorkshire and then the entire nation it paints a nuanced and detailed picture of the time. As well as detailing the devastating errors made by the west yorks police bilton manages to build a tense narrative that reflects the public consciousness of the time - fear and frustration ramped up notch by notch until it became panic. it is not easy reading. although senisitive, bilton does not shy away from the horrific details of the killings.
the one thing this work does not do is address sutcliffe the killer, bilton attempts no psychology or historical exploration of the man and the book is better for that.
And although the book focusses in huge detail on the police case is it is not an attack on the police whose disorganisation and obsession meant they failed to finger a killer they interviewed nine times. it comes across as a fair account of committed people operating way out of their depth.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bad Egg 21 Jan 2004
By A Customer
Excellent book on the subject - clearly excellently researched. Bilton knows the story well. It makes fascinating reading and not only is it a document on the ripper investigation, it is also full of historical information on the history of Yorkshire policing.
It is also very sad and depressing. Lots of dreadfull accounts of the killings and the destruction of many families' happiness. There were premature deaths and failing health amongst those in the victims' families also and amongst the officers themselves - the head of the investigation for most of it, George Oldfield suffered a heart attack during it and died 5 years later at 61, while Dennis Hoban died suddenly in 1978 of diabetic problems at 51.
Just a few minor things:
Bilton says he wasn't remotely interested in Sutcliffe himself and that he could tell him nothing except that he was a sick and perverted murderer, but unfortunately and as disgusting as it sounds, you do have to look at sick perverted murderers themselves and interview them to look at their crimes objectively - that's what police have to do and Bilton was trying to look at things from a police perspective.
He almost canonises the policemen as well. I know Dick Holland was a good policeman in many ways and worked hard, but no judgement was passed on him by the author for being ignorant and boorish towards a junior DC for trying to alert him to his suspicions of Sutcliffe a few years before he was apprehended - it's just another missed chance to get Sutcliffe. He was also a dirty cop at times - Bilton gives the impression he just cut a few corners here and there, but got results in the end.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Really nice police procedural
I enjoyed this book, hampered though the author is by thinking every policeman is a paragon of honesty and virtue. Read more
Published 7 hours ago by SecondCherry
2.0 out of 5 stars too much
way too much technical police type detail for my liking. just could not get past that even well into the book. the story of the man, the Ripper was lost in all that detail. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Heather Rowlatt
5.0 out of 5 stars Yorkshire ripper
A marvellous informative read gives me an insight and awareness that there are dangerous people out there who are very clever all being that insanity must come into it
Published 24 days ago by carol
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Ripper Account
I was born and raised in West Yorkshire in the 70s and 80s. I recall school trips to the swimming baths at Dewsbury as a youngster and seeing posters around the foyer asking for... Read more
Published 28 days ago by Jason Hanrahan
5.0 out of 5 stars could not put it down
I loved the book ,as it also gave history of the main police officers who lead the investigation and the mistakes that were made
Published 1 month ago by margaret fenton
5.0 out of 5 stars Wicked Beyond Belief
Without doubt, the best and most in depth book about the ripper investigation to date. Read many previous works and was still able to learn new and shocking facts about this case. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Graeme Bottomley
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely interesting and well written
This is a very fine book about a horrendous series of events which took place in the north of England in the 1970s. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Junius
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for the Faint Hearted
This is not the sort of book you could honestly say you love. However it is an excellent read. Although it is of course based on actual events. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Spud
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read
This book kept me gripped all the way through I am from Leeds/Bradford area so knew alot of the places metioned in the book, also gave a great insight into the police force in the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by miss ljoffer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
I have watched a couple of documentaries about the Yorkshire Ripper and similar true crime but this book really dives into the detail and tells about the background of every victim... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Alex Kozlov
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